Thursday, September 29, 2011

War Criminals (Western ones...)

George Bush decided not to visit Ottawa recently, because of local opposition to entertaining a man who is widely accused of war crimes. Dick Cheney defied his critics and gave a speech in Vancouver. Donald Rumsfeld prudently limits his travels to inside the USA, where domestic war criminals are tolerated. Men responsible for the deaths of a million civilians in the Middle East, and the physical torture and mutilation of a million more, usually have remarkably thin skins. Most psychopaths do; it’s the nature of the beast. Self is everything, other people count for nothing.

When the victorious Allies imposed their victors’ justice on the Germans and Japanese in 1946, they invented the concept of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”. At the Nuremberg trials the least forgivable crime of all was reckoned to be not the death-camps or the bombing of civilians, or the oppression of conquered peoples, or even the torture of captives- but the crime of making unnecessary war. It was argued that by its circumstances war provides a natural cover for all brutalities, and aggressive wars are therefore the greatest brutality of all. Those who were hanged in Nuremberg and Tokyo were hanged for fighting wars of aggression.

The trials established the principle that aggressor-nations’ rulers could be justifiably prosecuted under international law. The International Court of Justice and later the International Criminal Court were set up to judge national leaders and other individuals for war crimes and “crimes against humanity”. Nobody was to be exempt. That was the theory. But winners are always exempt. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are exempt. Tony Blair is exempt. Cameron and Sarkozy are exempt; the NATO atrocities they have supervised in North Africa are overlooked. Bill Clinton is exempt in respect of the NATO bombing of civilians in the former Yugoslavia. Hillary’s and Obama’s terror attacks on villages in selected Muslim nations are okay. The essential difference between all those people and the Hitler gang is that Hitler lost.

Here in Cayman we tend not to worry about international war crimes or criminals. Guantanamo and Haiti are just over the water, but they might as well be a million miles away. Our local rulers aren’t actually concerned about human rights of any kind, so reputed war criminals are safe here. President Clinton has been here. Kissinger has been here, I think. Oliver North came down to speak at a YCLA dinner; Tony Blair will be speaking at a Tennis Federation* dinner in November.

This last event is mildly inconvenient for me as a director of the Cayman Islands Tennis Club in South Sound. The Club is the chief member of the Federation, and will have some representatives at the tournament and dinner. One director out of ten can’t cancel that involvement. All I can do is vacate the office of director before Mr Blair arrives. That will be a futile act of self-indulgence, of course; nobody will even notice. But my son and his children would not respect me if I participated in a welcome to a man like Blair, and their respect is important to me. My son is a fierce opponent of human-rights abuses, so it’s probably just as well he won’t be here. The Police won’t need their pepper-spray for me!

It’s a moral dilemma. We all disapprove of our local gangland terrorists, and jail them if and when we can. More fools them, really. If they joined the West’s occupation forces in Afghanistan and Iraq they could be as brutal as they liked, and come back home as heroes. We don’t ask questions of the US soldiers who come here on holiday; we’ve no idea how well they have behaved in America’s wars of aggression. We save our visa restrictions for the children of our Jamaican helpers. Huh.

* I was incorrect in describing it as a Tennis Federation dinner. The dinner will in fact be hosted by the organisers of The Ritz Carlton Legends Tennis Event.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fool Me Once... (Cayman immigration)

“Feigned retreat” is a military tactic dating from the most ancient times, and practised to perfection by most armies in history. The most famous example to students of English history is that of the Norman invaders of England in 1066. By prior arrangement, the contingent of Breton troops allowed themselves to be “routed” by the defenders. The latter broke ranks in pursuit, only to be cut down by French knights on horses.

McKeeva’s proposed two-year suspension of the rollover program looks to be a feigned retreat. Release the pressure and pretend to give up the cause, then, when the enemy is relaxed and off-guard, send in the Immigration rottweilers to savage those who have fallen into the trap.

McKeeva is a very clever politician, at the village level, and it is always a mistake to underestimate his granny-wits. Unfortunately, politics at the village level requires no sense of vision. None of Cayman’s born-and-bred never-left-home politicians can envisage their Islands as a nation. A nation is defined, more or less, as a coalition of tribes; and the majority of tribal Caymanians are just not interested in a coalition with immigrants, much less with transient migrants – and least of all with low-paid coloured migrants.

Tribal Caymanians cleave to the sentiment towards outsiders reported in the Biblical legend of Joshua: Ye are cursed, and there shall be none of you freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water... That passage is carved in gold and rubies above the entrance to the Immigration offices. Mere mortals can’t see it, but we know it’s there, and so do all the Immigration officers and officials. I wonder if they are required to recite it every morning before the doors are opened.

In Cayman’s tribal lore, non-Caymanians are Kipling’s “Sons of Martha”, a poem based on a tale from one of the Gospels. Martha and Mary were the two sisters of Lazarus the dead man. Martha did all the work of hospitality, and spoke with Jesus man to man, as it were. Mary spent his whole visit fawning over him. In Christianity, as in Judaism and Islam, blind worship has always trumped practical good works. It’s part of the “God’s Chosen People” theme.

The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

In that context, how can we interpret the Rollover’s suspension as anything but a ruse? Give the Work Permit expats hope, encourage them to buy houses and new cars, wait until they’re settled, then tell them to bugger off home. If the UDP were (for whatever reason) reluctant to swindle the immigrants and migrants in this way, the PPM would gladly do the dirty deed.

It was the PPM who made the rollover retrospective, and who implemented the ethnic-cleansing of thousands of decent law-abiding immigrants who had made their homes here. Let’s remember that, when we talk about the alleged decline of quality of new arrivals. At the same time, let’s also remember that the Rollover law originated with a UDP Cabinet, and was introduced for the specific purpose of deporting long-term Jamaican and other residents. There’s really not much difference between the two anti-immigrant protectionist parties.

There are some sensible and practical ways for Caymanians’ elected representatives to repair relations with the immigrant communities, if they wanted, but suspending the rollover program isn’t one of them. We are not going to fall for that trick a second time. Fool me once...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Lepper's Spots (Cayman residents)

How intriguing it is, that some of our not-in-power politicians have declared that the Rollover Policy has “served its purpose” and can be put back on the shelf for a while. What purpose did it serve, exactly? Well, it was a successful ethnic-cleansing exercise, that’s for sure. A couple of thousand domestic servants and labourers were sent back to Jamaica despite having established domicile in Cayman. Some domiciled immigrants from other countries were also deported to their original homes - even some white people. Yes! Their removals provided handy cover for getting rid of lots of unskilled and unmoneyed black Jamaicans. Anti-Jamaican sentiment is the driving force behind most of our immigration “reforms”, isn’t it?

Most ethnic-cleansing exercises replace settled immigrants with newcomers, often transient migrants. Was that part of the purpose of Cayman’s Rollover? Presumably so. Quiet, law-abiding individuals and families with years or decades of residence in their established homes were replaced by persons of unknown quality. Most of the latter were good people too, but not all.

Immigration is always a risk. Every village and town in the world of our size can confirm Cayman’s experience with newcomers. The sensible thing to do with them is to encourage them to settle - to put down roots and think of themselves as belongers. The worst thing a host community can do is erect barriers to integration - to keep reminding them how unsuitable they are to hold any stake in the community’s future. “This is NOT your home, you bastards. Don’t even think about it.”

Presumably, the PPM Team is hoping that its Party’s anti-immigrant reputation will be forgotten by immigrant voters in the next elections. And maybe it will be - who knows? Somebody posted on the CNS website the other week, “A lepper [sic] doesn’t change his spots.” But there is a first time for everything. Maybe the PPM “lepper” can indeed change its spots. We shall see.

Its leaders have a wonderful chance to improve its image among immigrants (if they want to) by taking a stand in favour of the latest United Nations human-rights Convention. The ILO Convention on Domestic Workers was adopted on 16th June (two weeks ago), and of course it has great relevance for Cayman. Its contents are the stuff of nightmares for householders who exploit their migrant helpers - and for the politicians who support that exploitation.

The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (Article 3) - BOO! Fair terms of employment (Article 6) - COMMUNISM! No exemption from overtime rules (Article 10) - HOWL! The same protection as other workers (Article 14) - SAVE US, JESUS!

Mind you, our authorities take no notice of any other human-rights Conventions, so why should this one be favoured? Our new Human Rights Commission is already too cowed by the politicians to even bring this new Convention to the public’s notice. Good God! How pathetic is that?

However, hypocrisy is the backbone of our local politics. Will somebody from the new-image PPM cross fingers behind his back and say something positive about the new Convention? Maybe welcome the remote possibility that migrant helpers will actually come under the full protection of the Labour Law one day? Come on, one of you chaps! Be a devil.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

House of Cards (Cayman - a British colony)

Some recent events have thrown serious doubt on Cayman’s future as a serious tax-haven and international financial centre. If the Governor’s assent to the waiving of audited government accounts for the past six years didn’t signal Britain’s intention to let Cayman go its own way, nothing will. The disclosure in a lawsuit that our Monetary Authority was no longer monitoring the behaviour of hedge-fund directors constituted another sign.

The Civil Service’s failure to participate in the Financial Times survey on direct private investment told the world that Britain just doesn’t care any more. The UK’s meek response to all the open contempt shown to the Governor and his superiors recently, puts the matter beyond all reasonable doubt. In years to come, these won’t be remembered as straws in the wind so much as whole forests blowing away before our eyes.

Why might Britain be pulling the plug on Cayman after so many years? Well, maybe the 2003 disclosure of MI6 hanky-panky was the turning point. The EuroBank trial will surely have made MI6 a laughing stock in the international spying fraternity; James Bond it wasn’t. Maybe it destroyed the organisation’s credibility beyond recovery, and it’s time for a new start.

The world has changed a lot since 2003. The American Empire is rampant, now, impatient of obstacles. Cuba and Venezuela are two obstacles to US hegemony in its own hemisphere, and Cayman would be a useful staging-post for military action against them. If only the British could be persuaded to surrender control of Cayman...

Well, maybe they can be. Maybe they already have been. The transfer of power would not be of the Diego Garcia kind; the forced expulsion of a whole native people would be too embarrassing, a second time. Anyway, Cayman has a much higher profile than poor old Diego Garcia had fifty years ago. It would be far easier to quietly yield to the local politicians’ incessant demands to change their Constitution. Remove the UK veto on all legislation, and let the demagogues do their own thing - why not? The revised Constitution could lift Britain’s liability in respect of the local government’s borrowings, and Bob’s your uncle.

Of course without the British guarantees, Cayman’s Offshore industry would fold like a house of cards. Everyone who knows anything about tax-havens knows that. And tourism by itself can’t preserve our prosperity. Ah, but never fear - the Seventh Cavalry is here; or soon will be. In the event, the collapse might not last long at all. Nature abhors a vacuum, science tells us- and so does an empire on the rampage. The CIA would have its feet up on the Governor’s old desk before the ink was dry. Good luck arguing with them about the right of native peoples to self-determination.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Small Town (Cayman's settlements)

All progress comes at a price. The peaceful boredom of an isolated fishing village or farming community must be surrendered if the locals want a road connecting them with someplace else. Next thing you know, one of the locals sells a patch of ground with a shed on it to a stranger, who fixes up the shed and rents it to weekend visitors. Another local hires himself and his boat out to the visitors and shows them the reef. The next thing you know, it’s happening all over. There’s no more boredom, but there’s no more peace either. The rent-money or the boat-hire pays for a motor for the well, or a bicycle, or a kerosene fridge- and the next thing you know, you don’t know what will be next.

Economic progress and social progress tend to come hand in hand. Were the good old days really as good as we remember them? The smaller the community, the less privacy, and that wasn’t always a good thing. I can recall listening to Loretta Lynn singing about love in a small town, on Loxley Banks’s Country Classics afternoons on Radio Cayman.

Tonight at nine we get married
Friends all say it's a shame and disgrace
That he's loved every woman in Jackson
But Jackson ain't a very big place.

Sometimes it was a yearning for a proper education that began the progress. The first school-teacher in a community was often the best-educated local parent; the children’s learning was limited by the teacher’s knowledge, but it was progress. The usual standby option of home-schooling might be chosen by parents whose knowledge was equal to that first teacher’s. Later, a trained teacher would assume the job. External exams would become available for children with the proper level of achievement.

Cayman’s educational system would have grown from that sort of beginning- as did my own home community’s. In the absence of a school, our mothers taught us the syllabuses set by the provincial authorities and mailed our homework exercises in for marking. A few families paid a neighbour to teach their kids. After a few years of this, the authorities responded to pleas for a qualified teacher. “Build a schoolhouse and guarantee twenty pupils and we will send you a teacher.” So our fathers built a one-room hut with wooden awnings and we got a teacher.

Exactly the same kind of progress occurred in the Cayman settlements that were too small even to be called villages. The pattern must have been common in the West Indies, as indeed it was everywhere. The settlements grew into villages, then small towns. From Barkers to Savannah is a middling-size town now, isn’t it? Will the Shetty Hospital and the SEZ and the new school help fill the gaps to North Side and East End, or will those two small towns always be separate? Will their residents resist the temptation to progress to something larger?

I looked up the last words of Loretta Lynn’s song on YouTube. Loxley, are you there? The good old days really weren’t quite as good as we remember.

Yes, Jackson is a mighty small town
Where gossips and rumors go round
But the gossips are the ones he turned down
And Jackson ain't a very big town...